Trying Tofu for the First Time: A Food Adventure
One of the best aspects, though sometimes difficult, of getting married is finally having to cook for oneself and one’s partner. I joyfully took on this task almost four years ago. Now, one of my favorite hobbies is searching for new recipes. Over time, I have become increasingly adventurous in the types of new foods I am willing to try.
I had wanted to cook with tofu for a very long time. There are many reasons why, but the primary one has been to increase the sustainability of my diet. Even one meatless day a week can help reduce your carbon footprint and reduce use of natural resources. A plant-based meal can be delicious, satisfying, and nutritious.
Every person has different food needs and wants, depending on health, culture, lifestyle, and many more factors. For myself, I know a completely vegetarian or vegan diet is not compatible with my life. Still, I have been increasing the number of plant-based meals I eat per week. A great and easy start to this pattern was Meatless Monday. And then one plant-based meal turned into 2-3 a week. Getting to this point meant looking for a new plant-protein to add variety and interest to my meals. It became time to try tofu.
Throughout the year, I had accumulated in my mind tidbits of information on how to best prepare tofu. I knew that tofu is stored and packaged in water, which needs to be pressed out before cooking. I also knew that tofu does not absorb oil marinades well and works better with acidic marinades. The last tidbit I remembered picking up somewhere is that tofu really benefits from a light coat of cornstarch to crisp up when pan-fried. With this information in mind, I began my tofu adventure.
I chose extra-firm tofu for my first experience.
For the first step, I did some research. Websites like The Kitchn are a great source on ways to prepare tofu for newbies. Here I have cut the tofu into 5 even-sized blocks in preparation for pressing.
To press the water out of the tofu, place on napkins on a dinner plate. Top with more napkins, another dinner plate, and a heavy object. My makeshift tofu press is a bulky textbook, a bit much. But The Kitchn says you could simply use a 28 ounce can or heavy cast iron skillet (if being more practical is more your thing).
I pressed the tofu for about 30 minutes and then cut into squares.
The marinade I used is a simple one that I have used on chicken before: 1 tbsp paprika and the juice of 1 lemon. Add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper if you like spice. Total marinade time was 30 minutes.
I added 1 tbsp of corn starch and mixed well so that all of the tofu cubes were lightly coated.
I heated 1 tbsp of canola oil in a nonstick pan and then added the tofu.
I let the tofu crisp on each side, flipping about every 5-10 minutes.
For my final step, I added barbeque sauce. The sauce heated and adhered to the tofu. Served with rice and steamed veggies.
Once I got past the very different texture, I liked it! If you try tofu, keep in mind that it is not a meat substitute, it is a plant-based protein. The reason for making this distinction to yourself is that if you expect the texture of meat from tofu, you might be disappointed. Something else learned from this experience is that tofu absorbs a marinade really well. The acidity of the lemon and pop of the paprika shined through the sticky sweetness of the barbeque sauce. Next on my cooking adventures is baking tofu to see how the texture changes!
Ruth Jimenez is a California native and current Texas resident in the Fort Hood area. She is a second-degree student, currently enjoying the third semester of her food and nutrition major with the University of Alabama. Her career aspirations are to become a registered dietitian and recipe developer. In her spare time, Ruth enjoys the occasional Netflix binge, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and sharing pictures of food on Instagram.
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